Teach Your Kid About Red Flag Feelings
Online interactions can be confusing: Without the benefits of body language and tone of voice, we're navigating relationships using text alone. If it's sometimes confusing for us, we know it's tricky for kids. And while a parent's paramount fear is often online predators, sometimes the risks are more subtle. No matter the intention of the person on the other end of the keyboard, we want to help our kids recognize when an online interaction sets off alarm bells inside them. We call this internal alarm system "red flag feelings."
When someone is obviously trolling and causing trouble online, that's pretty easy to figure out. It's when the interaction—on the surface—seems pleasant enough, and the other person seems nice, that we want our kids to keep their antennae up. And these interactions can happen with someone they know, not just strangers. When someone older or with power over them is asking for pictures, for them to keep a secret, or for personal information, it will set off those feelings of discomfort and anxiety. Those are red flag feelings. At that point, kids can use F.I.R.E. (feel, identify, reflect, enact): They can tap into their feelings, identify what made them feel that way, reflect on how to respond, and take steps to act. Kids of all ages can use this framework to help them navigate situations that can feel very confusing. So, if your kid goes online, take a minute to arm them with this information so they have some concrete steps to take if and when the time comes.
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